Kapitulik is one of my favorite leadership speakers. He is the founder of The Program, an innovative leadership development firm with deep military roots. Each year, he and his team work with over 100 top-performing college sports programs and private companies—including our Acceleration Partners team back in 2018.
Though Kapitulik shared many great insights with our team in his keynote last week, what struck me most was his definition of a great teammate and a great team leader.
According to Kapitulik, great teammates always set the example for their teams. A great teammate is one whose words, actions and performance standards are what others want to emulate. Great teammates don’t necessarily tell people what they should do; instead, they lead by example in a way that compels others to follow.
Kapitulik also shared that a great teammate holds the team accountable. This is a shared attribute of many great teams; members hold each other accountable.
This facet of being a great teammate can be counterintuitive. When we’re working closely with others, it’s often easier and more comfortable to overlook mistakes and failures and just show support. While they look different in the moment, however, support and accountability are not mutually exclusive. While a great teammate should always have your back and be supportive, they can and should hold you accountable and help you improve.
After defining what it means to be a great teammate, Kapitulik moved on to discussing great team leaders. A great team leader, first and foremost, must display the same qualities of a great teammate. However, Kapitulik asserts leaders have two additional responsibilities.
First, a great team leader accomplishes their mission. They finish what they set out to do and ensure that the most important thing remains their top priority, even in the face of distractions and challenges.
Second, great team leaders make decisions in the best interest of the team. They take care of their people and prioritize what’s best for the largest number of people.
What makes a truly great team leader is when someone can simultaneously ensure their mission is accomplished while also taking care of people. While some leaders accomplish their goals without concern for their people’s wellbeing, and others take care of their people but lose sight of their goals, the best leaders are capable of balancing both.
But the challenge of being a great team leader goes beyond striking this balance. It’s also important to note that decisions made in the best interest of the team are not necessarily popular with everyone on the team. Accepting this reality is a crucial aspect of leadership that many are struggling with right now, it’s impossible to make everyone happy.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, the crunched labor market and two years of pandemic life have fostered a strong sense of individualism and impatience in the workplace. Many leaders, in a wide range of industries, have shared with me that people on their teams are increasingly asking for exactly what they want, when they want it. While this might be what’s best for the individual, it often isn’t what’s best for the team.
That’s where there is a real disconnect. Being part of a great team doesn’t mean getting everything you want all the time—there will always need to be some concessions for the greater good.
As we enter yet another challenging phase of the pandemic, every team will be tested in the ways described above. Leaders will need to care for their people while also keeping them focused on the greater goal, and teammates will have to continue setting the example and holding each other to those standards.
This is hard work, especially during a global crisis. But great teammates and leaders build the best teams, and the best teams win in the end.
What can you do to step up as a teammate or a team leader?
Quote of The Week
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
– Henry Ford